We’ve all been told the routine advice on raising productivity at work: don’t multi-task, minimize interruptions, say no to meetings, establish self-imposed deadlines, etc.
But what about the manipulation of background sound? Can boosting work productivity really be as simple as playing particular types of music or sounds?
It turns out that both music and nature sounds have been found to have beneficial effects at work.
Let’s start with nature sounds.
The Acoustical Society of America presented findings showing that workers can get more done and feel more positive at work when nature sounds are playing in the background.
The study consisted of three sessions in the same room, where researchers had participants complete tests while listening to a variety of soundscapes. Each session had a unique type of sound playing in the background, as follows:
- First session: office sounds muffled by white noise
- Second session: office sounds muffled by nature sounds
- Third session: office sounds with no masking noise
The final results? The employees performed better on the tests when listening to nature sounds and also felt more positive about the setting and the job.
The nature sounds were also greatly preferred over the white noise even though white noise presented a comparable masking effect.
Here’s a playlist of comforting nature sounds for you to try out yourself.
If you’re not into nature sounds, research from the University of Windsor demonstrates that listening to music can have similar beneficial impacts on work productivity.
They found that listening to music on the job improves mood and lessens anxiety, which creates an emotional state conducive to enhanced creative problem solving.
Participants that listened to music reported better moods, produced higher quality work, and devoted less time on each task.
Granted, the study was limited to information technology specialists, but there’s reason to think the effect is more widespread.
What style of music was revealed to have the greatest effect? It turns out that the genre is less important than the positive emotional response it evokes in the listener.
Which means the difference between classical music and heavy metal is insignificant provided that the music improves your mood.
Did you know that several hearing aid models allow you to stream music directly to the hearing aids from your smartphone or music player?
If you have hearing loss, or are considering an upgrade, ask us about the latest technology you could use to start enhancing productivity at work.
With such a strong connection between tinnitus and hearing loss, you would think people would be more likely to seek treatment for one or both ailments.
But believe it or not we find the reverse. Among those who avoid treatment for hearing loss, 39 percent (9 million people) do so because they feel that nothing can be done about their tinnitus.
That’s 9 million people that are suffering unnecessarily when a treatment program exists that could both enhance hearing and relieve tinnitus concurrently.
That treatment method is the professional fitting of hearing aids.
In a recent survey of hearing health experts, it was discovered that 60 percent of patients reported some amount of tinnitus relief when wearing hearing aids, while 22 percent confirmed considerable relief.
Based on these percentages, if the 9 million who have given up on tinnitus utilized hearing aids, 5.4 million would realize some degree of alleviation and about 2 million would realize significant relief.
But how do hearing aids actually mitigate the intensity of tinnitus?
The scientific consensus is that hearing loss brings about decreased sound stimulation reaching the brain. In reaction, the brain goes through maladaptive neurological changes that bring about the perception of sound when no exterior sound source is present.
It’s this very subjective feature that makes tinnitus so perplexing to diagnose and treat, and why prescription drugs or surgical procedures typically have little impact. There’s simply no physical structure to repair or chemistry to modify.
But there is a way to reach the perception of sound, a way to help the brain adjust or reverse its response to diminished sound stimulation.
With the help of hearing aids, amplified sound can help readjust the brain to standard levels of sound stimulation and concurrently offer a masking effect for the sounds of tinnitus.
For people with hearing loss, tinnitus is more noticeable because the tinnitus is louder relative to the volume of external sound. By turning up the volume on external sound, tinnitus can disappear into the background.
In addition, some hearing aids can furnish sound therapy directly to the user, which can be tailored for each patient.
Hearing aids, coupled with sound and behavioral therapy, are at present the best tinnitus treatment options available. The majority of patients describe some amount of relief and many patients report substantial relief.
Are you ready to give hearing aids a chance? Schedule an appointment today!
What do the top horror movies all have in common?
They all have memorable soundtracks that arouse an instantaneous sense of fear. As a matter of fact, if you watch the films without any sound, they become a great deal less scary.
But what is it about the music that renders it frightening? More specifically, if sounds are simply vibrations in the air, what is it about our biology that makes us respond with fear?
The Fear Response
In terms of evolutionary biology, there’s an obvious survival advantage to the instantaneous acknowledgment of a harmful situation.
Thinking is time consuming, especially when you’re staring a ravenous lion in the face. When every second counts, you don’t have the time to stop and process the information deliberately.
Given that it takes longer to process and contemplate visual information, the animal brain is wired to react to faster sound-processing mechanisms—a trait that provides survival advantage and has been selected for in the wild.
And that’s precisely what we see in nature: several vertebrates—humans included—generate and react to harsh, nonlinear sounds and vocalizations when alarmed. This creates a nearly instant feeling of fear or anxiety.
But what is it about nonlinear sound that makes it scary?
When an animal screams, it produces a scratchy, irregular sound that extends the capacity of the vocal cords beyond their typical range.
Our brains have evolved to recognize the properties of nonlinear sound as abnormal and suggestive of dangerous situations.
The interesting thing is, we can artificially simulate a variety of these nonlinear sounds to get the same instantaneous fear response in humans.
And so, what was once a successful biological adaptation in the wild has now been co-opted by the movie industry to produce scarier films.
Music and Fear
We all are familiar with the shower scene from the classic movie Psycho, and it’s probably one of the most terrifying scenes in the history of cinema.
But if you view the scene without sound, it loses the majority of its impact. It’s only when you add back in the high-pitched screeching and bone-chilling staccato music that the fear response becomes fully engaged.
To confirm our natural aversion to this nonlinear sound, UCLA evolutionary biologist Daniel Blumstein conducted a study examining the emotional reactions to two types of music.
Participants in the study listened to a collection of emotionally neutral scores and scores that incorporated nonlinear elements.
As anticipated, the music with nonlinear characteristics aroused the most powerful emotional reactions and negative feelings. This response is simply an element of our anatomy and physiology.
Whether Hollywood understands this physiology or not, it appreciates instinctively that the use of nonlinear disharmonious sound is still the most effective way to get a rise out of the audience.
Want to see the fear response in action?
Listen to these 10 Essential Horror Movie Scores.
If you think hearing loss only happens to older people, you may be surprised to discover that today 1 out of every 5 teens has some amount of hearing loss in the US. Furthermore, the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 90s.
It should come as no great surprise then that this has caught the notice of the World Health Organization, who in answer issued a report notifying us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from harmful listening practices.
Those dangerous practices include attending deafening sporting events and concerts without hearing protection, along with the unsafe use of earphones.
But it’s the use of headphones that could very well be the most significant threat.
Think about how frequently we all listen to music since it became transportable. We listen in the car, in the workplace, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a walk and even while falling asleep. We can combine music into nearly every aspect of our lives.
That quantity of exposure—if you’re not careful—can slowly and silently steal your hearing at a young age, leading to hearing aids later in life.
And considering that no one’s prepared to forfeit music, we have to uncover other ways to protect our hearing. Luckily, there are simple preventative measures we can all take.
The following are three vital safety tips you can make use of to protect your hearing without compromising your music.
1. Limit Volume
Any sound louder than 85 decibels can produce permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to buy yourself a sound meter to measure the decibel level of your music.
Instead, a good rule of thumb is to keep your music player volume at no higher than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll likely be over the 85-decibel ceiling.
In fact, at their loudest, MP3 music players can pump out more than 105 decibels. And since the decibel scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, 105 decibels is approximately 100 times as intense as 85.
An additional tip: normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels. Therefore, if while listening to music you have to raise your voice when speaking to someone, that’s a good signal that you should turn down the volume.
2. Limit the Time
Hearing injury is not only a function of volume; it’s also a function of time. The longer you subject your ears to loud sounds, the more extensive the injury can be.
Which brings us to the next rule of thumb: the 60/60 rule. We previously recommended that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its max volume. The other component is making sure you limit the listening time to under 60 minutes a day at this volume. And bear in mind that lower volumes can handle longer listening times.
Taking regular rest breaks from the sound is also important, as 60 decibels without interruption for two hours can be a lot more damaging than four half-hour intervals distributed throughout the day.
3. Select the Appropriate Headphones
The reason many of us have a hard time keeping our music player volume at under 60 percent of its max is a consequence of background noise. As environmental noise increases, like in a busy fitness center, we have to compensate by boosting the music volume.
The remedy to this is the usage of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is lessened, sound volume can be reduced, and high-quality music can be enjoyed at lower volumes.
Low-quality earbuds, in contrast, have the twin disadvantage of being closer to your eardrum and being incapable of limiting background noise. The quality of sound is diminished as well, and coupled with the distracting external sound, increasing the volume is the only way to compensate.
The bottom line: it’s well worth the money to spend money on a pair of high quality headphones, preferably ones that have noise-cancelling capability. That way, you can stick to the 60/60 rule without sacrificing the quality of your music and, more importantly, your hearing down the road.
As hearing professionals, there’s one particular type of hearing aid that we all are worried about. It’s bad for the patient, and it can deter others from even making an effort to give hearing aids an opportunity.
They’re regarded as “in-the-drawer” hearing aids. Compared with behind-the-ear or in-the-canal hearing aids, ITD hearing aids never see the light of day, demoralizing the patient and anyone the patient informs about their unpleasant experience.
For the countless numbers of people that have owned hearing aids, a good number will call it quits on the possibility of healthier hearing for one reason or another. However, with today’s advanced technology, we know that this should not be the case.
But hearing aids can be complicated. There are several things that can go wrong, creating a negative experience and causing people to stop trying. But there are ways to protect against this, actions you can take to ensure that, with a little patience, you get the optimal results.
If you’ve had a bad experience in the past, know someone who has, or are thinking about giving hearing aids a try, you’ll want to continue reading. By becoming familiar with the reasons some people give up on hearing aids, you can avert the same mistakes.
Below are the primary reasons people give up on hearing aids.
1. Purchasing the wrong hearing aid or device
Let’s begin with the fact that everyone’s hearing is distinct. Your hearing loss, just like your fingerprint, is also unique to you. Additionally, most people with hearing loss have more difficulty hearing higher-pitched sounds, like speech, compared to other sounds.
As a result, if you select a device that amplifies all sound evenly, like most personal sound amplifiers, sound quality will be affected, and you’ll still most likely be drowning out speech. You’ll need a hearing aid that is programmed to amplify the specific sounds and frequencies you have difficulty with, while suppressing background noise simultaneously.
Only programmable digital hearing aids have this capacity.
2. Incorrect hearing aid programming or fitting
Seeing as hearing loss is unique, the hearing aid must be custom-programmed for you specifically. If the configurations are inaccurate, or your hearing has changed throughout the years, your hearing professional may have to adjust the settings.
Far too frequently, people give up too quickly, when all they require is some adjustment to the amplification settings. Additionally, if your hearing changes, you may need the settings updated. Think about it like prescription glasses; when your vision changes, you update the prescription.
Also, nearly all hearing aids are custom-molded to the curves of the ear. If you find the fit uncomfortable, it may either just take some time to get used to or you may need a new mold. Either way, this shouldn’t prevent you from attaining better hearing.
3. Not giving hearing aids a chance to work
There are two problems here: 1) managing expectations, and 2) giving up too quickly.
If you think that hearing aids will instantly return your hearing to normal, you’re setting yourself up for discouragement. Hearing aids will enhance your hearing drastically, but it takes some time to get used to.
At the outset, your hearing aids may be uncomfortable and loud. This is normal; you’ll be hearing sounds you haven’t heard in years, and the amplification will sound “off.” Your brain will adjust, but not over night. Plan on giving your hearing aids about 6-8 weeks before your brain properly adapts to the sound.
Your persistence will be worth it—for patients who give themselves time to adjust, satisfaction rates skyrocket to over 70 percent.
4. Difficulty hearing in noisy surroundings
Individuals with brand new hearing aids can become easily overwhelmed in chaotic, noisy environments with a lot of sound. This can happen for a few reasons.
First, if you right away begin using your new hearing aid in noisy settings—before giving yourself a chance to adapt to them at home—the sound can be overpowering. Try to adjust in tranquil environments before testing at a loud restaurant, for example.
Second, you’ll have to adjust to the loud environments too, just like you did at home. It’s common to have one bad experience and give up, but keep in mind, your brain will adapt over time.
And last, you may just need to update your hearing aids. The latest models are becoming progressively better at eliminating background noise and enhancing speech. You’ll want to reap the benefits of the new technology as the speed of change is rapid.
It’s true that hearing aids are not for everyone, but the next time you hear a story about how hearing aids don’t work, you should start questioning if any of the above is applicable.
The fact that hearing aids didn’t work for someone else doesn’t mean they won’t work for you, particularly if you work together with a established hearing care provider. And if you’ve had a negative experience in the past yourself, perhaps a fresh start, better technology, and professional care will make all the difference.
“I have worn them all my waking hours. I love showing them off to my family and friends. I can hear so much better and I now don’t have to ask people to repeat what they have said. You are so truthful in explaining everything to me. You have helped me so much, bless you and thank you so very much.”